Yesterday was one of those days that is packed to the brim with events which, if taken one per day, would already qualify each day as “interesting” and “worthwhile”. But here there were many. Let me tell you about it.

Pulled myself out of bed by my own hair, prying off my fingernails which were sunk deep into the headboard in protest. Biked to work. There – interpreting at an early morning teleconference with computing specialists from Boeing and Russia’s Energia. Terrible connection, agonizing vocabulary, genial and friendly folk. One of the Russian specialists was clearly not used to working through an interpreter, and despite my pleas and commands to stop talking so that I can repeat what he said in English, he mumbled on for quite some time before I could get my spiel in. A typical exchanged sounded like this:

Victor: We are planning to use the old VIC CPU buses and the reflective memory card to static static static and as a result I believe that mumbo jumbo blah blah blah..
Me: Please let me interpret that part…
Victor: Sorry interpreter I didn’t hear what you said, bad connection, but as I was saying…yackedy shamckedy blah blah more static and the 1553 buses into the new crate with eight slots…fizzzzshmuppperrr….so hopefully you agree.
Me: We are planning to use the old CPU buses…(I interpret into English, and then…)… um, Victor, could you please repeat what you said after CPU?
Here I am pulling out my hair and explaining to the Americans that the connection is bad, and they’re cheering me on – “You’re doing a spectacular job!”….Yeah. That telecon gave a whole new meaning to the concept of “interpreting”.

Then…I rushed home because you see, my Mama was flying in from San Diego that afternoon and I had some cleaning to do. So I acted like a hurricane and partially stuffed lose articles of junk into open crevices and random empty suitcases, partially cleaned or shoved toys under beds, put up all of the chairs on beds and vacuumed in preparation for the vacuum cleaner that was supposed to come in in an hour to clean the carpets. Then I burst out the door to make it to an appointment with my lawyer. (On the way out I spotted a note written by my husband posted on the outside of our apartment door. It said, “We don’t need our carpets cleaned. Thanks!” Precious. It is, actually. I smiled to myself and pulled it off.)

It was 10:30am. On the way to the attorney I called the carpet dude and explained that nobody will be home, but that I left the door open and money on the table – come in and clean. He agreed, I gave him my cell number just in case, and went to my appointment. At precisely 10:57am, while consulting with the attorney, I receive a call. It is the carpet cleaning fellow. He says the following:

– Hello m’am. I have a bit of a problem here. I came into your apartment like you said, pulled out your small rugs and put in all of the equipment to start washing your carpet. But when I went outside to turn on the machine, I came back and the door is locked…
– But you were just inside…and I’m not there. Are you sure it’s locked?
(I hear him jiggling the door knob)
– Yes, I’m pretty sure. Maybe your husband came home and locked it from the inside?
– Do you see a black bike outside?
– No…
– Then my husband’s not home. How could this have happened? I wonder if maybe someone from the office (of our apartment complex) came in while you were walking to turn on the machine, left, and locked the door behind them? That would be a really strange coincidence…but let me call the office and find out. Please just give me a few minutes…

Then I proceed to call the office and explain to them that I have the carpet guy locked OUT of my apartment with all of his gear already inside. Then they explain to me that they can’t let him back in because they’re not authorized to open my door, and I explain to them that IT WAS OPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! and that they LOCKED it, and can they please just bring it back to the initial condition?, then THEY say that no, it’s a liability issue, and I say well what do you want me to tell the carpet guy? And they say, can you just drop by and leave your permission in writing for us to unlock the door, and all the while I am at AT THE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!!! And NO I CANNOT DROP BY because if I could I would let the carpet guy in myself, and NO I can’t just drop them an email OR A FAX and I guess I’ll just allow the carpet dude to climb in through the window (which is also open). That gets them. Finally, a breakthrough. They’ll let him BACK IN just this once . I thank them politely, sigh, hang up. The attorney is grinning at me, amused. I shrug. That’s just how we roll.

It’s noon and time for lunch with the boys. And when I say “boys” I mean two of my friends and colleagues who could be my father and grandfather. I call to see where we are meeting, and unwittingly invite myself over to Alyosha’s house for lunch because his older sister is visiting, and she makes the most divine barley soup and I absolutely must try it. No need to convince me. I am there. Well the soup is indeed divine, reminiscent of weekends spent at the grandparents’ in Russia, of frosty designs on frozen window panes and hearth aromas and steamed up windows and family and good, hearty food. While we chow, Alyosha’s sister Galina talks about her far-reaching network of students, about her recent trip to St.Petersburg, about literature and jazz and memories from other eras, in a country that no longer exists, of people no longer living. I grin and consume and soak in the warmth of the home, of this vibrant woman, of enriching, unhurried conversation. And for that hour, we are transported out of Houston, out of this space and time, almost. It is a magical lunch break.

(Stay tuned for Part II of this same day…)

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